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How revival and renewal begins…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought of the Day:

A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written.  But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good LORD provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. 21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread seven days with great joy,  and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments. 22 Then Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who performed skillfully before the LORD. They ate at the appointed festival for seven days, sacrificing •fellowship offerings and giving thanks to Yahweh, the God of their ancestors.
23 The whole congregation decided to observe seven more days, so they observed seven days with joy,  2 Chronicles 30:18-23  HCSB

462    The power of charity! If you live that blessed brotherly spirit, your mutual weakness will also be a support to keep you upright in the fulfillment of duty—just as in a house of cards, one card supports the other.

I have read this Bible passage before. and yet it struck me this time as a critical part of the love that is shared between God and His people.   What amazing lesson about God and His people!

Despite the sin of the people, and despite them following the proper methods and rites for being cleansed of those sins, the prayer of Hezekiah was heard, and those who were supposed to be shut out were welcome to the feast. (even the foreigners and aliens among them if you keep reading down to verse 25)

The people prayed for weren’t pure, they weren’t holy, they shouldn’t have been included according to a strict reading of the Law of Moses. Hezekiah should have just told them – forget about it, take a year, study more, ensure you know the right way to appear before God, then we will welcome you back.

He didn’t.  He prayed, acknowledging the sin, and asking that God would provide the atonement, the satisfaction, the healing that would allow these people to enter into the celebration of God and His people, and the life that is ours as we dwell in God’s presence.  

And as James would right centuries later, 

16  Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT2)

God heard the prayer, healed His people, and the party began. A party that was supposed to last a week, and lasted two.  A party that resulted in people giving away their riches, of the congregation having more money than the people could give, and of those who were previously unclean going home, and removing from their lives of all of their idols.  (see Chapter 31)

Not by command, they just knew this was how they could live, assured they were God’s people. This is the power of charity, the power of love.  You see it in the prayer of Hezekiah (would all church leaders have this heart!) who prays on behalf of these people.  You see this charity in God, whose love Hezekiah knew so well that the Spirit could lead him to pray on behalf of those who were sinners and unclean. You see this love in the people, bound together in celebrating the love of God, and in their charity/love in their destroying their idols 

This needs to happen in the church today, for this is how the church is revived, how it is renewed, how it returns to its First love!

Let us pray  †
heavenly Father, cause the hearts of your leaders to be so filled with your love, that they think of those who are cut off, who the world says aren’t clean enough.  Lord, help us, for their sake, pray that they would know that Jesus has fully atoned for them, that they are welcome to this feast of those who love You, who would walk with you, depending on your love. Move our hearts Lord, and may all those around us come to dwell in Your peace, in Your Presence.  AMEN!

 

NOTE:  If you have been made ot feel like an outsider by the people of God, please forgive us,

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1128-1130). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Walking with Jesus through Trials to The Triumph EnJOYing the Walk!

Our Lenten JourneyWalking with Jesus through Trials to The Triumph

EnJOYing the Walk!

Romans 5:1-11

In Jesus Name

As you walk with God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may the gift of their love and mercy sustain us, and bring us great joy!

Where is the joy?

Verse 11 in our epistle reading often leaves me wondering.  Specifically, the part that says, “so NOW we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God.”    

Did you guys get this memo?  That because of your wonderful new relationship with God we should be rejoicing, that we should be overwhelmed with joy?  I think somedays I need to be strongly reminded of that, and somehow, I don’t think I am the only one.

As we walk through this season of Lent, as we walk through these trials to The Triumph, we need to experience this joy, not just because it will prevent us from burning out, but rather because the joy is the basis for where we live..

We, who dwell in the presence and glory of God, are to live joy-filled lives.  It is the fruit of the Spirit Paull will tell the church in Galatia, and the Thessalonian church will hear “rejoice always!’

What an odd paradox for Lent, to preach on the fact that we should rejoice, that we should live our lives full of joy, even as we grieve over our sin.  To talk about the joy we should be experiencing is far greater than the joy experienced by winning a gold medal in the Olympics, yet which at times seems as unlikely as me winning said gold medal.

Then again, if we were all full of joy, why would I need to preach about it, or why would St. Paul need to write about it?

A Paradox indeed, this idea of joy!

Endurance leads to confident hope…. For we know

Then again, this passage is full of challenging things to understand, like the fact that when we encounter problems and trials, we can rejoice as well!

As if the problems and trials are the sources of that joy.

They aren’t, and it doesn’t say they are the source of the joy. They just say joy should be expected, that the result of problems and trials results eventually in our confident hope of salvation being strengthened, being made sure, as we realize the breadth and width, their height and depth of God’s love.

We need to get that, for I think most of us look at these problems trials and at points wonder where God is, or why He would allow such a thing to exist?  We stagger in the doubt and anxiety that such problems and trials, these oppressive times, and at times fall into sin, looking for relief from how they dominate the landscape.

Luther noted this challenge in dealing with problems and trials when he discussed the first commandment and what a God was,

What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart;    The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.

It is all too easy to take refuge in something, especially in those things that are powerfully addictive, from drugs and alcohol to work, sex, politics, technology, social media and even security.  It moves from temptation to sin when those things become our primary refuge, the place we go to first always.  Where do we run when life is challenged, when life is difficult?  That is our god, and far too often, that is not Jesus.  These refuges will draw us in, more and more until we realize them for the trap they are.  By that time, we are helpless.

Then we need to be saved more from our refuge far more than we need to be saved from the problems and trials that assault us.

But when we were helpless!

We aren’t without hope though, and that is part of the process.  For enduring these challenges can only be accomplished as we are drawn to Christ.  When we realize that when we didn’t deserve the privilege of having peace with God, when we realize that when we were utterly helpless Christ came and died for us.

That is where the spiraling into the refuges of idolatry ends, when Jesus comes and rescues us, an unbelievable action, considering he is rescuing us from betraying him!

This is where the joy is found, in that while we were still in rebellion, while we didn’t give a rip about God, and sought out sin rather than depending and listening to Him, He still loved us, He still died for us. He still cleaned up the mess we’ve out of our lives.

That is amazing! That is something to be astounded by!  That is something to be thankful for!

He loves us.  God really loves us!

And even more, because Christ’s blood cleanses and paid for all our sins, we have the promise of sharing in the glory of God!

That is what we rejoice in, this incredible, mind-blowing idea that because of Jesus, because of His love, we have this relationship with God, where He calls us His friends.

A relationship that is revealed when we can’t make it through these problems and trials when we realize that relationship is called a friendship. A relationship that is full of peace, and in that peace, we can rejoice in what Jesus has done, and what God has prepared for us, a place for eternity, dwelling and sharing in His glory.

This is worth rejoicing in, even in Lent, Yes?  AMEN

Brighten up! It is Monday!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADevotional Thought for our Days:

14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. f 15 No one lights a lamp  and puts it under a basket,  but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine  before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16  HCSB

113      Don’t wait until you are old to start becoming a saint. That would be a great mistake! Begin right now, in earnest, cheerfully and joyfully, by fulfilling the duties of your work and of your everyday life. Don’t wait until you are old to become a saint. Because—I insist—apart from its being a great mistake, you never know whether you will live as long as that.

So it is Monday, and most of us are weary from the time change.  (Even though we got an extra hour of sleep yesterday!) Already encountered a number of irritable people, and I know several more who will be irritable as I deal with them today.  

Such is life!  Not just Mondays, but every day we live.  

Yet Jesus calls us to be the light of the world.  Please understand, Jesus isn’t saying that He is the light of the world here, nor is He commanding us to be. 

He is stating it as a fact.  

We can cover the light up, we can hide it, we can waste it away.  We do this all too easily when we forget that we are in God’s presence when we choose to ignore the fact that we dwell in His glory.  insted of realizing the blessings, we get dismayed, irritated, tempted and exhausted by the things of this world.  But we still are the light of the world.

Jesus, in uniting us to Himself at the cross and in our baptism had made this possible.  The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, nourishing us, comforting us, is the guarantee of 

Yeah, today is Monday, and not even as especially good Monday.  Never the less, the Lord is with YOU.

So, be a saint, walk with God, know His love. and dwell in His peace.  And when you think you can’t be, cry out, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner!”  And know He has. That is why you are a saint, why you are the light of the world. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 599-604). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Unnecessary Suffering….how do we cope?

54e14-jesus2bpraying

God, who am I?

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
14  Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15  Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16  Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)

Do not limit your patience to such or such kind of injuries and afflictions, but extend it to all such as it shall please God to send you. Some are unwilling to suffer any tribulations, but such as are honourable; for example, to be wounded in battle, to be a prisoner of war, to be persecuted for religion, or to be impoverished by some lawsuit determined in their favour. Now, these people do not love the tribulation, but the honour which accompanies it; whereas, he that is truly patient, suffers tribulations indifferently, whether accompanied by ignominy or honour.

As I write this, in the background is Anne Hathaway’s version of “I dreamed a dream” from the movie version of Les Mis.  I can’t help but think of the character, and the background found in the novel.  ALothough in the beginning a victim of her own sin, others make her misery and despair far more oppressive.

Some, like Val Jean, do so without thought. Others, like the Innkeeper and his wife, or the supervisor in the shop, do so with evil and malice. 

Either way, the suffering is real, the oppression stifling, the pain incapacitating.

As I read St. Francis De Sales words this morning, it, this idea of unnecessary suffering started dominating my thoughts. How do we deal with the suffering we don’t deserve, the pains that are caused by others, or whose biological cause cannot be blamed on anyone.

Things like my genetic heart issues, my dear friend’s ongoing battle with cancer, the unknown victims of terrorism and their families, those who suffer from PTSD, or some other mental illness and those who suffer with them.

This is different than the cyber-crusader who looks and desires and rejoices in his being “persecuted for rightness ( not righteousness) sake.”  Those people love the honor they receive from being a victim, and they deserve the persecution and the problems.

But what about the innocent who suffer?  Or those who suffering is so compounded by others neglect or deliberate harm?

As one, I’ve learned the hard way, through many sleepless nights, and times of tears that I cannot justify the suffering, I cannot find the “why” that I so desperately want to know.  I can strike out in anger, I can slip into the deepest of depression, I can, and have at times, hoped the suffering would simply end. 

Those thoughts don’t diminish the suffering, if anything, it gives the suffering more power over me, increasing the anxiety.  Nor am I strong enough, on my own, to avoid those feelings.  

I need to be patient, with these things I cannot explain, with the pain I can’t bear on my own. I need to have the patience De Sales calls for, I need the assurance of God’s empathy and benevolence of a God who invites me into HIS presence. I need to have the confidence to look to HIM, to understand how His innocent suffering had a purpose, and that somehow God will use mine for good.

It is not an easy task, coming to this conclusion, gaining this confidence. It is one I often fail to achieve, as this day or that is spent letting the darkness enclose me. Devotion is the answer, not devotions (remember – my strength had already failed), but devotion.  Considering Christ’s devotion to me, and as I do, growing to adore Him.

There is the answer.  Considering the depth of Christ’s devotion, there I find the hope that enable the patience I need, the strength to endure, the ability to take my mind off of my problems.  Being encouraged by others, who endure, and hear my words and find the same strength to endure.  That helps me realize the depth of Christ’s empathy.  As odd as it sounds, I can embrace the suffering, knowing His suffering that He embraced.  For He embraced it for a simple reason.  He loved you andI

Will I need the encouragement of others, pointing me back to the cross?  Yes!  Will I still struggle at times?  After 45 years of dealing with this, the answers is, yes. But I know I will come out of the depths, sustained by Jesus, who volunteered to suffer so that I would know His empathy, HIs love, and ultimately, His peace. 

This is my goal for today, to walk confidently into His presence, to accept His invitation to walk with Him. 

And to pray you will boldly, confidently walk with our God as well.  

Godspeed!

dt

Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.

Imitate Jesus….at the cost of our idolatry

photo(35)

The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
8  He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death— his death on the cross.    Philippians 2:8 (TEV)

625    Your obedience is not worthy of the name unless you are ready to abandon your most flourishing work whenever someone with authority so commands.

5  Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. 6  And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:5-6 (NLT)

If you want to grow as a Christian, one of the things you need to do is confront your idols.  To see them, confess them, and let God circumcise your heart and soul, removing those idols that would destroy you.

Two words can help in this examination.

Obedience

Submission

Even as you read those words, like me, something in your stomach reacted, or perhaps you became a little jittery, as defenses began to rise up.  I don’t want to submit to my boss, we see teens struggle to obey their parents, and you want to really have fun, bring up the idea of wives submitting to their husbands in a Bible Study!

Most Christians would nod appreciatively when we talk about imitating Christ. That we should have the heart for the lost, for those who are broken and destitute, We may think of them, and pray for them, and pretend we are like Christ.  We may give money to missions, and think we’ve done our part, that we’ve made our sacrifice.

But will we, as St Josemaria notes, abandon what is going well, what is flourishing, what seems to be blessed, to obey Jesus?

That’s another question entirely, and strikes to what obedience really is.

Will we embrace hardship, to love?  Will we give up that which we’ve invested our lives in because we’ve heard the voice of God, because we know this is what God has planned, because it is in accord with the heart of God, that has been revealed to us in scripture?

Would you leave your business, like Peter, Andrew, James and John did, with an unheard of catch of fish?  Or leave success as Matthew did, literally walking away with tables full of money?

That is obedience.  Jesus calls.

But please, understand me, this is not a blog to create guilt, but to help us learn to trust in God, to depend on Him, for that is the source of obedience.

Obedience is not blind, it is not mindless, to set aside our desires, it requires us to be in prayer, to examine our consciences and allow God to purify them.

It requires us to hear God.

Which is probably why the word in Greek for obey is – hyper-hear.

To listen and let it stick, to internalize what is heard.

TO hear the voice of God, and be so overwhelmed, we respond in love, in adoration.For we realize that nothing, no idol, no desire, no amount of success is worth the joy of being in His presence.

This is our life.  This life of walking with God, of hearing His voice, of knowing Him, and knowing His love for us.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1477-1478). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Don’t Know it All? What an Incredible Blessing!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

8 *Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. 9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. 12 At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.g 13 *So faith, hope, love remain, these three;h but the greatest of these is love.  1 Cor. 13:8-13 New American Bible. Revised Edition.

152    Don’t you sense that more peace and more union await you when you have corresponded to that extraordinary grace that requires complete detachment? Struggle for him to please him, but strengthen your hope.

As our Wednesday Night Bible Study has been meandering through the Acts of the Apostles, the last two weeks have encountered people with partial knowledge.  Apollos and the 12 Ephesian disciples.  In both cases, they were missing significant, I would even say critical knowledge about Jesus, about His death and resurrection, and about what it means to depend on Him in life.

Yet they were still called believers, disciples, knowledgeable.

They had people lovingly correct them, Priscilla and Aquilla, and Paul.  Things were corrected, and God was revealed to them, so much more graceful, so much more loving.

But it, and today’s readings. got me thinking about how easy it is to idolize knowledge, especially theological and spiritual knowledge.We expect that it will protect us against heresy and heterodoxy, that it will cause us to mature, to grow in our ability to enter into discussions and win them (the discussions/debates – not necessarily the people) for Christ.  I’ve been there, done that,offended people, been condescending and arrogant, as I’ve strived to know it all. I’ve had to repent, and on more than one occasion apologize and  confess and pray for forgiveness. 

Yet scripture is clear, and we need to understand we can’t know it all. I can’t learn it all, nor keep tomes and tomes in my brain. I won’t be the next Augustine or Pascal or Melancthon.

To realize this, is a blessing that is incredible. 

To realize that I won’t have every answer, that I will continue to grow, that my sight will always be indistinct, that my knowledge will always be partial is so freeing!

It frees me from an idol, one called knowledge.  It stops me from becoming thinking that knowledge is the highest of virtues, and reminds me of something I need- to depend on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

Coming face to face with my own inadequacies leads me to search out for Jesus Christ  more than to search out for another theological guru, another academic tome.  For His grace is communicated through His word and sacraments, through the Lord’s supper, and in the promises poured out with water in baptism, as the burdens of sin and unrighteousness are relieved as I hear the words,”Your sins are forgiven!”.(2)

It is Christ that protects us, it is the Holy Spirit that lifts us up, whether we can adequately diagram the text, or explain the communication of magisterial attributes.  (these are actually helpful – but they ain’t God, nor do they automatically make us more godly!)

Knowing we don’t know it all, that we can’t, drives us to the cross, brings us to walk humbly next to Him, depending on His as a disciple, and this is good.

It is a great blessing – for as we lean on Him, as we trust our Lord, this is where we find peace, and the greatest knowledge of all.

That is this:

“The Lord is with you!”

AMEN!

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 488-490). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  I would recommend reading the Apology of the Augsburg Confession for a partial list of other sacraments, such as prayer, and helping the poor.

Politics, Hard Decisions, and our Faith

Devotional Thought fo the day:

 But these men pressed the king. “Keep in mind, O king,” they said, “that under the law of the Medes and Persians every royal prohibition or decree is irrevocable.” 17 So the king ordered Daniel to be brought and cast into the lions’ den.* To Daniel he said, “Your God, whom you serve so constantly, must save you.” 18 To forestall any tampering, the king sealed with his own ring and the rings of the lords the stone that had been brought to block the opening of the den.
19 Then the king returned to his palace for the night; he refused to eat and he dismissed the entertainers. Since sleep was impossible for him, 20 the king rose very early the next morning and hastened to the lions’ den. 21 As he drew near, he cried out to Daniel sorrowfully, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve so constantly been able to save you from the lions?” 22 Daniel answered the king: “O king, live forever! 23 My God sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not hurt me.b For I have been found innocent before him; neither have I done you any harm, O king!” 24 This gave the king great joy. At his order Daniel was brought up from the den; he was found to be unharmed because he trusted in his God.  NABRE, Dan 6:16–24

509      To be able to judge with rectitude of intention what is needed is a pure heart, zeal for the things of God and love of souls, free from prejudices. Think about it!  (1)

I will admit – I don’t have the purity of heart, and not enough zeal for the things of God, and while I try to love souls, there are days this isn’t an option.

If we were back in the days of Darius and Daniel, I can hear the FB and Twitter comments blasting this King, trying to force him to release Daniel, calling him names, and crucifying him in the media for doing what he did. Or the opposite – for not dealing with Daniel severely enough.

They didn’t see his sleepless night, his mourning, His brokenness.

If we were there, we would see someone in power doing that which we know he should not have done.

His heart wouldn’t have mattered, only his actions. His only hope was in the God Daniel trusted, only then could the king know peace.  He wasn’t Darius’s God, yet.  Darius would praise him, indeed, order his entire country to praise the God of Daniel 

26 Then King Darius wrote to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on the earth: “May your peace abound! 27 I decree that throughout my royal domain the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared:

“For he is the living God, enduring forever, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed, whose dominion shall be without end, 8 A savior and deliverer, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who saved Daniel from the lions’ power.” NABRE Dan 6:26-28

This is a lesson for us, for our tendency to judge before we know; before we see the big picture, and the heart of the man in authority  Before we realize that God is at work, as promised>  We need to pray for our leaders, for the decisions they have to make, that they may not want to make.  Even the decisions we disagree with, and find evil in our view.

We can only do this if our faith is in God, even as Daniel’s trust was.  Only if we are convinced of His promises can we endure, or watch others endure their own lion’s den.  Its not our faith in the Darius, or even in the Daniel, it is God’s reliability we are talking about here…

The God who restores things that are broken, from governments ot leaders, to our own souls.

Trust Him, know He will deliver us… and be confident in His work in you.   DOing such will leave in you peace… free to love, to serve the Lord.  AMEN!

 

(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1938-1940). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Deepest Theological Statement is only 4 words!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Alleluia!(1)  He Is Risen! (2)

14  And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15  And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16  And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17  And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still guilty of your sins. 18  In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19  And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (NLT)

What would it mean if Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus, had not taken place? Would it mean just one more corpse, insignificant among the statistics of world history, or would there be more to it? Well, if there were no Resurrection, the story of Jesus would have ended with Good Friday. His body would have decayed, and he would have become a has-been. But that would mean that God does not take initiatives in history, that he is either unable or unwilling to touch this world of ours, our human living and dying. And that in turn would mean that love is futile, nugatory, an empty and vain promise. It would mean that there is no judgment and no justice. It would mean that the moment is all that counts and that right belongs to the cunning, the crafty and those without consciences.
There would be no judgment. Many people, and by no means only wicked people, would welcome that because they confuse judgment with petty calculation and give more room to fear than to a trusting love.  (3)

62      Our Lord did not confine himself to telling us that he loved us. He showed it to us with deeds, with his whole life. What about you?

Some people think theologians live in ivory towers, deeply disconnected with the world. I will admit some of us do, and more often than not we get accused of it. Surely we go off on tangents, and make little details bigger than they ought to be.  In doing so, we find ourselves blinded by these little things, to the greatest of theological truths.

One of the reasons I love being a pastor in the Lutheran Church is our habit that Easter isn’t just celebrated for 1 Sunday, but for 40 days, and then every Sunday after that for the entire year.  The reason it is important to me is that I have to be reminded, and remind you of one simple truth, one we say over and over for these weeks.

Alleluia!  He is risen!  

(if you know the response, go ahead and say it… you know you want to.. and it is good for us that you do so!)

There are no words deeper than these theologically!  (There are some equally powerful, but hearing these you understand them, and vice-versa)  To overlook them turns our religion from a glorious, incredible mystery, into simply the most pathetic thing on earth!  To overlook them is well described in Pope Benedict XVI’s  words in blue above.  For if Jesus doesn’t rise, God didn’t act in the incarnation. He didn’t act in the life of Jesus lived in our midst, tempted at every point as we are.  And God didn’t act in Christ’s death…. which assuredly He did.

And I love Benedict’s words, which we don’t both with the church because we confuse God’s judgment!  We think of His judgment as some sort of cosmic balance sheet.  Were we good enough; did our sins reach the point of no return, is our brokenness beyond God’s patience, and therefore, He might be unwilling to deal with it.  What happens then is we take this fear to the extreme, dismiss the God whom we fear, and create gods of things that help us ignore that which we fear.

We run from God, instead of understanding that because of the resurrection we can run to Him!  We can trust in God to use the power that raised Christ from the dead to raise us! (see Romans 6 for an excellent description of this!) We can trust this love of God, which gets involved in our lives, to the most hidden details, and starts bringing about the healing, patiently overwhelming us with His love.

He doesn’t just say He loves us, He shows it, by making the resurrection known, by revealing the depth of His plan, the purpose of His covenants, to those He no longer counts as minions, but as his beloved friends. (John 15:15)

This is all wrapped up in those words; He is risen!  We can meditate on that for hours, for days, and we should.  For from these words of life we find our life, our hope, our very being.

This is what our religion is based on; this is what is the foundation to why a Christian trusts in God.  As Benedict XVI, perhaps the greatest theologian in the 20th century wrote:

All this makes clear what Easter does mean: God has acted. History does not go on aimlessly. Justice, love, truth—these are realities, genuine reality. God loves us; he comes to meet us.  (3)

Alleluia, He is Risen!

the Lord is with you!

AMEN!

 

——-

(1)  Alleluia simply means “Praise God! (YWHW)
(2)  This is our Easter cry, taken from Matthew 28:6  ” 6  He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. ”  Matthew 28:6 (NLT)
(3)  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. 126). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
(4)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 444-446). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Which is Your Hope: To Be Comfortable, or Comforted?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
3  “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! 4  “Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them! 5  “Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised!    Matthew 5:3-5 (TEV)

 Instead of divine consolation, they want changes that will redeem suffering by removing it: not redemption through suffering, but redemption from suffering is their watchword; not expectation of divine assistance, but the humanization of man by man is their goal.

In his book on the Rapture, Tim LeHaye justifies his belief in the rapture based on the emotional appeal that Christ would never allow His people, the Bride of Chrsit to suffer.  (p.65-69) He pictures the church not surviing such suffering, such pain, such horrors.  He pictures Chrsit wanting to eliminate suffering for all believers, now, not just in eternal life. He fears the Tribulation, and even suggests that the church would not be able to sruvive it, should she be left behind.

I don’t want to focus on errors in his eschatology, but rather in the presupposition that God wouldn’t allow the church to suffer.   This is a much larger issue in American Christianity, for it is not just those that hold to the teaching of a premillenial rapture that would come to the conclusiont hat God wants the church comfortable.  i don’t know fo a theological system that doesn’t fall prey to this at some point, including those who like me express theology in a Lutheran or catholic-sacramental context.  ( In our modern version, this often means saving people from martyrdom or political oppression.  Or in our denial to seek help, whether it be from a father confessor, or a counselor, or a doctor. )

We all have our desire to be comfortable manifest itself in ugly ways. It might be in our attempts to isolate ourselves from the ugliness of sin, or to hide anything that would cause us to feel sharem, or grief.

I think it is a matter of maturity and faith when we can set aside this desire for being comfortable with the desire to be comforted.  And when faced with suffering or sacrifice Benedict XVI was right, we want to be redeemed from suffering, to be saved without experience the guilt and shame that tells us we need to be delivered.  If we want to be saveed – it is from the guilta and shame, not from what causes it.

But to desire to be comforted, even in the midst of the pain, is something radically different. It means relying on Jesus, on His wisdom, on His promises that what we are going through doesn’t seperate us from Him.

That’s different.

The article I quoted form Benedict above had another quote qorth including:

Before this image, the monks prayed with the sick, who found consolation in the knowledge that, in Christ, God suffered with them. This painting made them realize that precisely by reason of their sickness they were identified with the crucified Christ, who, by his suffering, had become one with all the suffering of history; they felt the presence of the Crucified One in their cross and knew that, in their distress, they were drawn into union with Christ and hence into the abyss of his eternal mercy

There is something about that which cries our with great comfort.  We do not walk alone, that we are not abandoned by God to make it through this vail of tears on our own.   The Lord is With In our brokenness, in our need for answers, in our need for hope, we find Him, we realize that He is holding us in His hands, bearing our sorrow, our grief, our sin.

So how do we grow in this, how do we lay aside our rights, our comfortability, our pleausre?  How do we take up our cross?

By trusting and depending upon Jesus.  By finding our refuge in the comfort of His love,  by dwelling in His presence, for there we know His peace, there we know comfort, and we experience a joy that sustains us.

Seek His presence, seek His kingdom, there is comfort there… and the more you know it, the easier it becomes to seek.

 

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. 122–123). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

What if the Lord didn’t ask for you to be the martyr, but..

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 The LORD spoke to Moses and said: 2 Consecrate to me every firstborn; whatever opens the womb among the Israelites,a whether of human being or beast, belongs to me.  Ex 13:1–2 NAB-RE

209         You made me smile, because I know what you meant when you said: I am enthusiastic about the possibility of going to new lands and opening a breach there, perhaps very far away… I would like to find out if there are men on the moon…Ask the Lord to increase that apostolic zeal of yours.  (1)

On facebook this morning, I saw a man saying that he definitely would speak for Christ if he was put in the place of a potential martyr, where the decision was to either say he believed in another god or Jesus.  And then he challenged everyone else to claim they would as well.

It made me think of the passage in red that I came across a few days ago, about the command of God to dedicate to His service every firstborn.  We can think of those who did in scripture. Hannah comes to mind, as does Elizabeth.  Abraham had the question put to him, and his faith in God was proven true.  And less we forget Mary’s first son, who she watched God the Father dedicate to the purpose of saving all of mankind.

Dedicating a child to God’s work isn’t something new, but it is something forgotten.  During the middle ages, and even until recent history, the second male was encouraged to enter the ministry.  Not the first, because that would be the heir of the family name, but the second.  (Who gets the better inheritance IMHO)

These days, we aren’t so ready to do so.  Not with the first or the second. We aren’t ready or willing to give them up to a life of service, or for that matter, a life of martyrdom, as they sacrifice and even are sacrificed to accomplish the work of God.

Fewer men are entering the ministry, fewer women dedicating their lives to working in the church and church schools as well.  Fewer willing to go on the mission field, whether far abroad or here in the inner cities.

We claim to be people who trust God in everything, will we trust Him with our children?  Will we trust Him with those who are precious to us?

Even if their vocation is to be a pastor or priest, missionary or even if they are called to martyrdom?

Do we trust Him with life?

Again, go back to Mary’s son, her first born.  The only-begotten Son of our Heavenly Father.  Who was the pastor, priest, missionary, and yeah – martyr as He died on the cross.  As He saved us from our sin.  As He came to us.

The firstborn of the firstborn.

May our trust in God grow, as we consider what God the Father committed and consecrated His firstborn to do, and may we seriously encourage more and more people to consider a vocation that sees them ministering to others.

Amen.

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1082-1085). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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